Florida to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars
Florida is lifting all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and bars effective immediately, with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) saying he is also prohibiting local governments from closing businesses or imposing any restrictions without justification.
“There will not be limitations from the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during a press conference Friday. “I think this will be very, very important to the industry. Some of the local [governments] can do reasonable regulations, but you can’t say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind.”
DeSantis said that if a local government wants to put capacity restrictions between 50 percent and 100 percent, officials will need to show the economic and health justifications for doing so.
Previously, local governments could go further than state-level restrictions, and some counties have kept restaurants and bars closed even after the state allowed them to reopen.
DeSantis acknowledged that the pandemic is still a concern, but said the state is prepared if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases and that governments should not be forcing businesses to close.
“We’re prepared if we see an increase,” DeSantis said. “We’re not closing anything moving forward. We have the tools in place.”
DeSantis also encouraged football teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to allow fans into their stadiums. Tampa is slated to host the Super Bowl in February.
Florida became a coronavirus hot spot this summer after initially escaping the worst of the pandemic. Cases skyrocketed in the summer months, prompting DeSantis to close bars as a way to slow the spread of the virus.
Nearly 14,000 Floridians have died since the beginning of the pandemic, but the state’s number of new infections has declined steadily since the peak in July.